CASTLEFORD TIGERS forward Nathan Massey reckons past form and results will count for nothing at Headingley tonight.
The treble is off the agenda for Tigers after they were dumped out of the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup by Hull last weekend.
But they are six points clear at the top of the table and a seventh successive win over Leeds Rhinos would be a giant step towards getting their hands on the Betfred Super League leaders’ shield.
Though it is third versus first on the league ladder, Castleford have held a strong upper hand in recent meetings.
Rhinos’ last win over their near-neighbours was a 26-12 success at the Jungle in April, 2015.
Three of Castleford’s wins since then have been at Headingley, including a 52-12 rout last year.
Tigers stormed to a 66-10 victory – inflicting Leeds’ worst Super League defeat – at the Jungle in March and won 29-18 when the teams met at the Magic Weekend in Newcastle a month ago.
But it was 6-6 at half-time in that game and Massey is expecting tonight’s derby to be tight throughout. Leeds have had two extra days’ rest and were involved in a less punishing tie last Friday when they hammered Kingstone Press Championship part-timers Featherstone Rovers 58-0.
“We have beaten them twice this year so far, but their form has improved massively,” Massey said of Rhinos.
“They’ve won three on the bounce now and they had a good performance against Featherstone in the Cup last weekend.
“They will be full of confidence after watching our game and I am sure they will be coming at us hard.
“We will be ready for a big game.”
The Cup defeat at KCOM Stadium ended Tigers’ eight-match winning run, stretching back to a league defeat on the same ground two months ago.
According to Massey they don’t have time to feel sorry for themselves and what matters now is how they respond.
He said: “It was disappointing for us, but credit to Hull.
“They have beaten us twice this year on their ground and they were too good for us in every department from the off.
“It is a good lesson we’ve got to learn and we will learn from that and kick on for the rest of the year.
“We need a reaction because we weren’t up to the standards we’ve set this year.
“It was really disappointing because it was a Cup game and we’re out of the Cup now.
“It was a big game for us, but we’ll be better for it.
“We need to perform better in those types of big, one-off games.
“Fingers crossed, at the end of the year we will be winning those games.
“They are the ones we want to be winning and grinding out and we will come back stronger from it.”
Massey admitted Tigers need to start better tonight after trailing 12-0 inside seven minutes at Hull.
Another priority is to cut out handling mistakes and reduce the penalty count against them.
“We didn’t look after the ball,” he said of the game five days ago.
“We made far too many errors and having to turn around and defend in that sort of heat killed us.”